Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Poll results

Results of last week's poll looked like this:

1-10: 7 (38%)
11-20: 7 (38%)
21-30: 2 (11%)
31-40: 0 (0%)
41+: 2 (11%)

Monday, September 17, 2007

TIFF 07 winners announced

TIFF has announced the titles of this year's award winners. Even though TIFF claims they are not a competitive festival with a juried competition, there are still a number of awards given out in a handful of specific categories. The big award, The People's Choice award, goes to the film with the best audience feedback, as determined by the ballots the audience fills out after each screening. This year's award goes to David Cronenberg's EASTERN PROMISES. An interesting choice considering the heartwarming, culturally significant nature of past winners such as WHALE RIDER, TOTSI and HOTEL RWANDA. Not to say it's not going to be a great film, it just appears to break the mold. Who would have thought the director of RABID, SCANNERS and CRASH would eventually make a picture that would please the masses.
The following is a full list of this year's winners...

- Best Canadian Short Film: Chris Chong Chan Fui's POOL.
- Citytv Award for Best Canadian First Feature Film: Stéphane Lafleur's CONTINENTAL, UN FILM SANS FUSIL.
- Toronto-City Award for Best Canadian Feature Film: Guy Maddin's MY WINNIPEG.
- DIESEL Discovery Award, voted on by the festival press corps: Israel Cárdenas and Laura Amelia Guzmán's COCHOCHI.
- Artistic Innovation Award, for a film in the Visions program: Anahí Berneri's ENCARNACION.
- Prize of the International Critics (FIPRESCI Prize): Rodrigo Plá's LA ZONA.
- Cadillac People's Choice Award (as determined by festival-goers): David Cronenberg's EASTERN PROMISES.
- Cadillac People's Choice Award, the first runner-up: Jason Reitman's JUNO.
- Cadillac People's Choice Award, the Second runner up is Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro's Body of War.

Catching Up: Reviews pt.2

RELIGULOUS: A Conversation with Bill Maher and Larry Charles

As the title suggests, this is more a conversation with the two titular stars, than that of a film. The pair discuss the making of, and the ideas behind their upcoming film RELIGULOUS, a documentary that takes a satirical stab at organized religions across the world. Mahr and Charles spoke without a filter about their views on religion with the mentality of: “No one knows what happens when we die, so why make up stories and pretend like we do”? The results were eye opening, thought provoking, and utterly hilarious. The audience spent the majority of the hour and half program practically in tears laughing, as was I. The film promises to be the next BORAT, and after viewing 30 minutes of the work in progress, I can tell you I will be the first in line. This was my Sunday service.


Story follows a traveling Egyptian police band that gets stranded at an Isreali airport on their way to perform at the opening of an Israeli cultural centre. Without a host or place to stay, the band relies on the kindness of a café owner and fellow villagers for food and shelter, and in the process, discover a great deal of similarities that bridge strenuous cultural differences. It’s a gentle souffle of a comedy that allows the characters room to breath with minimal dialogue, and while funny and heartworming, the film never illicits a reaction it did not earn. Focus is on only a few central characters, but each is handled carefully with a specific path, and when their paths intersect, their connections allow the film to shine. Looking back, this was a breath of fresh air among the dark and serious fare.


Documentary following what happens when the film crew on Liev Schreiber’s EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED invites a young Iraqi to work on their set after his film school is destroyed in the U.S. invasion. What follows is an unexpected turn of events after the young man fails to live up to expectations and proceeds to frustrate those around him, resulting in many broken relationships, including the documentary filmmaker’s. The film begs the question: What is the role of the documentary filmmaker, and how does this change the film and it's subject when he/she becomes involved? The director, Nina Davenport at first appears to have found the perfect character with the perfect idealistic story, but as the film progresses, we realize the person we’re following is not necessarily the person we thought, and he, as well, discovers the hard way; he may not be the person he thinks he is either. Davenport cleverly identifies parallels with that of the Iraq invasion with what is occurring on screen. The metaphor provides insight and perspective into the escalating tensions between her and her subject, and allows for a similar, unfortunate conclusion. Riveting from start to finish.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Catching Up

Whew. After spending 5 days in Toronto in what I like to call “festival time”, my travels have finally caught up with me. I’m now finding time to catch up on all the things I didn’t get to do while away, such as adding my reviews to the blog, working, and of course, sleeping. It’s always sad when the festival is over, but the films will go on, and it will be exciting to track their progress as many will find homes at local cinemas.

I’ll start by gradually posting a few brief synopses of some of the films I took in at TIFF07. These will be sporadic, so anticipate more to come as I recover from my fest-lag…


It’s the tale of a Texas man who steels 2 million from a drug sale gone bad, the psychopath who hunts him, and the police chief who contemplates his future in the violent land. The Cohen brothers go back to their dark BLOOD SIMPLE / FARGO roots, but instead of North Dakota, this time it’s the Texan desert where their quiet, languid pace is perfectly at home. The tension is also perfectly crafted, the performances are all around solid, but Javier Bardem steels the show, transforming himself into a monster more frightening than those found in slasher films. I left the Visa Screening Room ready to see it again.



Gone are the subtleties of the metaphors found in his previous efforts, and instead we now find Romero’s social messages repeatedly hammered into our heads, just as the many bullets and arrows find their way into the heads of zombies. These messages come in the form of a voiceover, shot from the first person perspective of an amateur film crew as they discover the dead have come back to life. It’s also found in the campy dialogue between the stilted and amateur performances, as the actors do their best to document the zombie uprising on two cameras and various forms of “new media”. Romero attempts to have his say on many issues such as the Katrina disaster, his lack of trust in the government, immigration, as well as the overriding message/vehicle of how information is spread and shared in the age of web 2.0.
Since this was a Midnight Madness selection, it’s hard to rate a film solely on its content, when the overall experience of watching it is so different when you’re at the Ryerson at midnight. The streets themselves were lined with fest-goers in zombie make-up, Romero and Dario Argento are present, and most importantly, the audience was pumped. So, while the film may have faltered, the experience did not. Every time a zombie was blown to bits (which happened quite frequently, a showcase for some standout FX such as when acid is poured onto a zombie’s head and it proceeds to melt convincingly into nothing within seconds), the audience erupted into cheers. Every time a line of bad dialogue was spoken, the audience erupted once more. In the end, there were a lot of noisy moments, but that’s what makes Midnight Madness so great.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Updated links

If you're like me, you'll be tinkering with your schedule up to the very last minute. In that case, some of the new links in my TIFF RESOURCES section may be what you're looking for. Numerous websites and publications have dedicated entire sections to the Toronto International Film Festival. You can find tips on places to eat, how to spot celebrities, and even advance reviews of some of the festival's films. This section can arm you with the info you need to make the right choices at this year's TIFF.

Take a look at Now Magazine's TIFF Coverage for a full list of film reviews. Or, listen to the latest BlogTO podcast, which features scheduling tips, programers to avoid, as well as their personal film recommendations.

TIFF TIP: What next?

If you get your first choices, congratulations. Last year was the first year in five years I did not get all of my first selections, and being from Michigan, I have to do the Advance Draw every time. This year marks my second.

If you don’t get your first choices, like myself, then you have a few options. Be content with the second choice, or if after considering it for a few days and decided you MUST see that first choice selection, you can begin the quest for the golden tickets. This quest can consist of many things:

- Try to buy them when the individual tickets go on sale. This means waiting all morning in a line around multiple blocks, or logging onto the website to make the purchase. But many hardened festival veterans will tell you: Don't count on individual ticket sales. The online system is notoriously unpredictable and has been known to crash for long periods of time. I would tend to agree with this sentiment, but its still worth a try if you have the patience. But, I would still say do your best to get your choices in early for the advance draw and use the option for backup purposes only!

- Go to the festival box office routinely. When you get there, you will see a large board with a list of every title screening, listed by date. The films with red crosses over them indicate they are "off sale". This board can be very intimidating! But don’t put a ton of stock into it. I have discovered that tickets will become available throughout the week for films that were previously sold out and the Big Board will not reflect the addition of these newly added tickets. Ask a sales agent or call whenever possible.

- It is frowned upon by TIFF, but you may have luck trying the websites Tiffreviews.com or eBay. Many people who no longer can attend their films want to get rid of their extra tickets and use this as a forum to do so. But as with any internet based purchase not affiliated with TIFF, you run the risk of scams and bogus tickets. Buyer beware.

- Try the Rush lines. Rush lines are formed at the sold-out film’s box office prior to the film’s screening time. Moments before show time, empty seats are filled and any spare tickets are made available to the public. I have only had to do this once and had great success with it. The line was much longer than expected and I will admit, after taking one look at the line, I had my doubts. But it moved quickly and we got our tickets with time to spare. I have also spoken to many other attendees that swear by them. Attempting the Rush line is an underused and under appreciated option that I can recommend for those that have exhausted their other options.

What did I forget? Please add your suggestions in the Comments section below!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Show me your TIFF

I must apologize for my lack of postings over the recent days. I've been spending every last minute pouring over the TIFF schedule, and fine tuning my daily itenerary with great precicion. Unfortunately, there were a handful of titles I didn't get, so now I'm trying to find ways to get the tickets I need, and get rid of the ones I don't. Below is my tentative TIFF schedule. I'm still not 100%, but I'm getting closer...

Saturday Sep 8 11:59pm George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead (RYERSON)

Sunday Sep 9 1pm Religulous: A Conversation with Bill Maher and Larry Charles (RYERSON)
Sunday Sep 9 3:30pm The Band's Visit (RYERSON)
Sunday Sep 9 7pm Operation Filmmaker (ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM)
Sunday Sep 9 9:15pm White Lies, Black Sheep (VARSITY 7)

Monday Sep 10 9am No Country for Old Men (RYERSON)
Monday Sep 10 9:15am King of the Hill (SCOTIABANK THEATRE 4)
Monday Sep 10 1:15pm The Counterfeiters (CUMBERLAND 1)
Monday Sep 10 9:15pm Lars and the Real Girl (RYERSON)
Monday Sep 10 9:30pm Across the Universe (ROY THOMSON HALL)

Tuesday Sep 11 12:15pm With Your Permission (CUMBERLAND 2)
Tuesday Sep 11 9pm Body of War (ISABEL BADER THEATRE)

Wednesday Sep 12 12pm Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (CUMBERLAND 2)
Wednesday Sep 12 3:30pm The Savages (SCOTIABANK THEATRE 1)
Wednesday Sep 12 8:30pm I'm Not There (RYERSON)

As you can probably see, I'm double booked Monday morning and Monday night. I'm also short a film or two on Saturday. So, based on what I end up seeing Saturday evening, I will trade or sell the duplicate tickets to the Monday screenings. I'm looking for IN BLOOM, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, or EASTERN PROMISES on Saturday.

What's your TIFF look like? Feel free to share your TIFF schedules in the Comments section.

EDIT: Revised line-up...
Saturday Sep 8 6pm No Country for Old Men (Elgin)
Saturday Sep 8 11:59pm George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead (RYERSON)

Sunday Sep 9 1pm Religulous: A Conversation with Bill Maher and Larry Charles (RYERSON)
Sunday Sep 9 3:30pm The Band's Visit (RYERSON)
Sunday Sep 9 7pm Operation Filmmaker (ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM)
Sunday Sep 9 9:15pm White Lies, Black Sheep (VARSITY 7)

Monday Sep 10 9:15am King of the Hill (SCOTIABANK THEATRE 4)
Monday Sep 10 1:15pm The Counterfeiters (CUMBERLAND 1)
Monday Sep 10 9:30pm Across the Universe (ROY THOMSON HALL)

Tuesday Sep 11 12:15pm With Your Permission (CUMBERLAND 2)
Tuesday Sep 11 9pm Body of War (ISABEL BADER THEATRE)

Wednesday Sep 12 12pm Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (CUMBERLAND 2)
Wednesday Sep 12 3:30pm The Savages (SCOTIABANK THEATRE 1)
Wednesday Sep 12 8:30pm I'm Not There (RYERSON)

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Telluride Film Festival

From EW.com:
Every September, the Toronto Film Festival is where many movie journalists and industry folk go to get their first and most wide-ranging look at the fall's big films, but getting a jump on some of Toronto's movies are the festivalgoers at the Telluride Film Festival, a fest so exclusive and secretive that it doesn't even announce its lineup until the guests start arriving at the Colorado resort town. The slate has just been announced this afternoon for this year's Telluride gathering, which runs from tomorrow through Sept. 3. Some of the films on the list have already played at Cannes this spring (and won awards there, like Palme d'Or-winner 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days and Julian Schnabel's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), but others will be screened at Telluride for the first time, notably, Sean Penn's Into the Wild, Noah Baumbach's Margot at the Wedding, and perhaps most eagerly anticipated, Todd Haynes' I'm Not There (featuring Cate Blanchett, pictured, and several other actors taking turns in the role of Bob Dylan). Keep an eye on PopWatch throughout Labor Day weekend for coverage from Telluride.

The full line-up can be found here.